World

Indonesia battles fake news as elections loom

JAKARTA Indonesia is battling a wave of fake news and online hate speech ahead of presidential elections in next year, as a string of arrests underscore fears it could crack open social and religious fault lines.

The pluralist nation's reputation as a bastion of tolerance has been tested in recent months, as conservative groups exploit social media to spread lies and target minorities.

Police have cracked down, rounding up members of the Muslim Cyber Army (MCA), a cluster of loosely connected groups accused of using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to attack the government and stoke religious extremism.

Two of the group's most high-profile falsehoods were claims that dozens of Islamic clerics had been assaulted by leftists and that Indonesia's outlawed communist party was on the rise, according to police.

Communism - and its hallmark atheist beliefs - remains a taboo subject in Indonesia, where bloody purges under the Suharto dictatorship in the mid-1960s killed half a million suspected leftists.

Inspector General Gatot Eddy Pramono, the National Police's head of social affairs, has said the group wants to destabilise government and "create social conflict".- AFP

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